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The Embalmer
The Embalmer
Actors: Ernesto Mahieux, Valerio Foglia Manzillo, Elisabetta Rocchetti, Lina Bernardi, Pietro Biondi
Director: Matteo Garrone
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
UR     2004     1hr 36min

Peppino (Ernesto Mahieux), a taxidermist who stashes contraband in corpses for the Mafia, may be undersized, but he shouldn't be underestimated. After Peppino persuades the handsome Valerio (Valerio Foglia Manzillo), a wai...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Ernesto Mahieux, Valerio Foglia Manzillo, Elisabetta Rocchetti, Lina Bernardi, Pietro Biondi
Director: Matteo Garrone
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Love & Romance, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: First Run Features
Format: DVD - Color,Letterboxed - Closed-captioned,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 05/18/2004
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 1hr 36min
Screens: Color,Letterboxed
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 2
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: Italian
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

Wonderfully acted, but not much else.
Robert P. Beveridge | Cleveland, OH | 03/31/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)

"L'Imbalsamatore (Matteo Garrone, 2002)

From the description the library gave of this film, I was expecting a slick piece of Italian horror of the new wave variety (cf. the absolutely brilliant Michele Soavi film Dellamorte Dellamore, which flirts regularly with inclusion on my 100 Best Films of All Time list). What I got was... not. It's a lurid love-triangle tale, an interesting, if flawed, piece of high drama.

The story revolves around L'imbalsamatore himself, Peppino (Ernesto Mahieux, not yet a name likely to be known amongst Americans, but give him a few years). After an interminable opening scene, Peppino approaches young, handsome Valerio (Valerio Foglia Manzillo, in his first film role) and asks him to become Peppino's apprentice. Valerio accepts, and quickly realizes that things are not all as they seem. First, the rumors Valerio has heard about Peppino being tied in to the mafia somehow seem as if they might have some substance. Second, it seems Peppino's interest in Valerio might not be fatherly. Valerio meets up with Deborah (Elisabetta Rocchetti, recently of Non Ho Sonno) and the two of them drift into a relationship. Deborah is even warier of Peppino than everyone else in his life. Complications ensue.

The best thing about L'imbalsamatore, by far, is its acting. All three of the main characters turn in fine performances, and the love triangle is made eminently believable by all three of them. Unfortunately, it would be even more believable if Garrone had more of a sense of pace. The film drags in a number of places where it shouldn't, and Garrone's use of filler is transparent (the long pan shot from the beach to the city, for example, which turns up first in the title credits for a full two minutes, then shows up for thirty seconds here and there when Garrone needs some extra footage). It's a 101-minute film that could have easily been an eighty-five or ninety-minute better film. Still, it's well worth seeing for the performances of the three lead actors. Worth seeking out. ***"
Decent suspense
Jonathan Appleseed | 09/04/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)

"This was an intensely powerful psychological film. Where it was easy to see what the interest that Peppino had in Valerio, it was more difficult to understand why Valerio wanted to go work with Peppino. I know that sometimes subtitles don't always give a true rendering (according to reviews I've seen of other foreign films), so perhaps something was lost in the translation - I'm not Italian, don't speak Italian, so had to rely on the subtitles.

It was creepy, to say the least, to watch Peppino (Italy's Danny DeDevito) lusting after Valerio (as another reviewer said, and I said this myself when I was watching the film, Italy's Brad Pitt). Obviously, even in the most bizarre of circumstances, it's impossible to imagine that coupling. And we know that Valerio was aware that Peppino's interest in him was more than simply that of a co-worker.

The DVD cover has a quote saying something to the effect of "all the twists and turns are plausible". There really any twists and turns. It was a straight forward film. Peppino pursued Valerio, Valerio wasn't interested (at least sexually - he was definitely interested in hopping off to Cuba with Peppino when presented with the idea), and something has to give.

The ending is a powerful one, it will keep you guessing for a bit, and you will probably be surprised by it. I wasn't; I saw the ending in the beginning - but I won't give it away.
More Romance Than Gore
James Morris | Jackson Heights, NY United States | 01/02/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I am not usually suckered in by a pretty face on a DVD box; experience has taught me to be extra careful when I find myself drawn to a handsome photo when choosing films to add to my collection. Nevertheless, the premise of this picture sounded morbidly intriguing, and the hunk on the cover (who is precisely to my taste) allowed me to decide that the purchase of this film could never be a total loss.

I surprised myself by finding this film satisfactory on several levels. On the superficial, we have the very good performance of an actor named Valerio Foglia Manzillo, a mouthful in all respects. Mr. Manzillo is handsome in a sort of breathtaking way that makes me feel all fluttery on the inside, and the character he portrays is likeable enough to seal our affection.

But on a dramatic and emotional plane, it is the portrait of the dwarf Peppino, engagingly acted by Ernesto Mahieux, that will strike a chord of identification in the average viewer strong enough to carry The Embalmer through to its uncomfortable conclusion. Peppino is likable and charming, but suffers from the terminal loneliness often experienced by those whom society labels "unsexy". The people he meets generally respond to him with warmth and affection, unsuspecting that he continually struggles to mask the fact that he is perpetually unfulfilled, sad and somewhat pathetic. We feel his desperation and acutely sense his sadness, even as he entertains and inspires laughter and joy in those around him. His secret sexual longings make him especially human and easy to identify with, and this portrait is ultimately the most satisfying aspect of this interesting film.

The gory scenes I expected from the synopsis on the box failed to materialize, but I was far too engrossed in the characters to feel cheated in any way. This picture is not for everyone, but if you like brooding, dark and thoughtful foreign films, you may enjoy it as much as I did. In any event, the film is not as shocking as it is romantic and, if nothing else, the sex appeal of the young apprentice will be more than sufficient to hold many viewers' attention. Others may wonder what all the fuss is about; I know that I have seen dozens of films in the past few months that I found far less satisfying.
Beautiful, but flawed
D. Cerbini | New York | 07/31/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"For me, the best part of this film was the spectacular cinematography with which the physical beauty and talent is captured! Certainly, there will be some points in the movie when you're scratching your head going, 'uhhh why the hell is this happening right now?'
But my goodness, every shot is BEAUTIFUL! The weird and sometimes unbelievable things happen with such an amazing eye that in my opinion they are forgivable if not just to see all the wonderful visual ideas the director put into it."